I just finished up the first of my themed sets that included a colored smoke bomb and a bunch of witch themed items, from crystals to cauldrons. It was amazing. I loved seeing the inner spirit of each person I photographed. Everyone used the props differently and it was so much fun to capture what the props help bring out in each individual. A big part of the witch photo shoot was each person was able to pick a colored smoke bomb in the color they wanted and they also received a gift bag filled with all types of witchy goodies.
The smoke bomb has always been a prop that I have wanted to play with. I saw plenty of others working with it but as I have come to realize through years of being a photographer, every one photographs things differently. I remember, when I was assisting for a local photographer when I was nineteen, we both shot the same setup with the same model and the same materials. However, our ending shots were completely different. His were light and dewy, mine were dark and contrasty. This made me feel like there was enough room to work with the same materials and still create something that was completely my own.
While I was excited to use the smoke bombs, with any new prop or medium, there is always figuring out how to best use it. Let me pass down what I learned by shooting with colored smoke bombs…
Model: Amanda Grant
Here are a few things I learned by using colored smoke bombs for photography:
- They get really really hot. I am not sure how the subjects in a lot of photos I have seen have been able to hold them with bare hands. Maybe there is another type that doesn’t get so hot? I would recommend putting the smoke bomb on the ground, in an object that doesn’t transmit heat, or wearing gloves. Note: The very bottom does not get as hot and I was able to put the cap on the bottom to help the models hold the smoke bomb.
- Remember, the object you are putting the smoke bomb in, needs to be non-flammable. You are still dealing with a heat and flame reaction that can cause smoking. I had an issue with a plastic cauldron that I put the smoke bomb in. No fire started, but it burned the side of the cauldron and made my car smell like suffer for about a week! Lesson learned 🙂
Model: Mary at Uncustomary
- The smoke bomb is not going to last as long as you think! It is best to go over all of these items with your model as well. Let them know they have about 30 seconds-2 minutes depending on the day (wind, etc). You can plan to have multiples, or just have the poses and ideas picked out beforehand. A location that sits lower then the ground around it also helps the smoke stay in one area longer (think the riverbed in the image above with the purple smoke).
- I would recommend getting the wire pull smoke bomb. This way you don’t have to worry about an open flame and bringing a lighter. The wire pull you can be sure to have your hands far enough away to not get burnt. Make sure to read the instructions on how to hold while lighting. Don’t pull to light upwards toward your face or downwards toward the ground/your feet.
- You’ll be really excited, the smoke will start coming out, and then you will not be able to see your model. However cool it might be, it isn’t so cool if you can’t see your subject. I instructed the models to be aware of where the smoke is going and try and keep upwind. It is helpful if they stand a bit in front of the smoke bomb, so the smoke is passing behind them.
- I find the color really shows up nicely on an overcast day or with tree cover. The muted tones really contrast nicely with these saturated colors.
- Encourage your model to move! Of course, more movement is typically better in my opinion, but this is especially so with the smoke bomb photos. Having the smoke slink around the scene helps get the most interesting shapes.
- Safety. Again, this a very hot object that is emitting heat at the tip. Make sure the smoke bomb is in a safe place where it will not light anything else on fire and make sure to have a bottle of water on hand, just in case.
- Lastly and very importantly, please be aware of what you are leaving behind. We are people here to live among the earth and not scar it. Do not put the smoke bomb any place that will permanently alter the ground by dyeing it or burning it. You can easily put something underneath. Leave no trace.
Model: Lindzor The Creator
It is always good to reflect on a photo shoot once you have finished. Each shoot I thought up of another thing that could make the next photos better. Have any of you used smoke bombs for photos or anything else? What did you learn?
Here are some other great photos from the series: